Nelsen Williamsburg

3785 Strawberry Plains Rd., Williamsburg, VA


Ray Lafayette Merritt Jr.

October 8, 1942September 7, 2020

Major Ray L. Merritt, Jr. (USAF Ret) passed away September 07, 2020, surrounded by family. He was born October 08, 1942, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he attended Knoxville East High School, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with Bachelor of Science degree in 1965.

Ray Merritt was born to fly and pursued it from the age of 9. In high school he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and was inducted into The Order of the Arrow. He became an assistant scout master to Troop 15 in East Knoxville. After graduating from UT he was commissioned as a 2nd LT. and entered the Air Force Pilot Training in Laredo, Texas.

Graduating from Pilot Training in December 1966, he was assigned to Vietnam flying a C-123 Provider transport. Ray was there during the ’68 TET offensive and flew in and out of Khe Sanh during the siege. On the ground he was the subject of numerous rocket and mortar attacks, and sniper fire. Ray always said, “I was extremely lucky and came home without a scratch.”

Ray’s next assignment was in Charleston AFB, South Carolina flying a C-141 transport. Each month he would fly back to Vietnam delivering supplies and bringing home the wounded and dead. In 1971, he was assigned as an instructor teaching pilots to fly the C-141 at Altus, Oklahoma for four years.

He then flew VIP Boeing 707’s at Andrews AFB in Washington, D.C. Later he became the passenger service officer handling the VIP flights. In 1979, Ray was assigned to Panama and became the air terminal manager at Howard AFB for three years.

While in the military he completed his master’s degree in Human Resources as well as several military educational courses. In 1982, Ray was assigned as the Senior Officer Controller in Langley AFB command post where he retired as Major in 1986.

During his term of service he received the following awards:

• Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters

• AF Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster

• Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

• Combat Readiness Medal

• Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon

• Humanitarian Service Medal

• AF Longevity Service Award Ribbon with four oak leaf clusters

• National Defense service Medal

• AF overseas Long Tour Ribbon

• AF Overseas Short Tour Ribbon

• Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star

• AF Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster

• AF Outstanding Unit award with four oak leaf clusters

• Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Device

• Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

After his Military retirement, Ray continued serving his country by flying for The Commonwealth of Virginia for several years. He later became the private pilot for Henry S. Branscome, Sr. and family. He ended his 48-year flying career with Flight International on training missions contracted with US Navy.

He continued to be active in the C-123 provider in Southeast Asia Group. For the past several years he also managed the Bill Jenkins and The Virginia Mountain Boys a Bluegrass band that was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame and performed at the National Press Club.

In 1970 he married Helga Bastuck, and they adopted six children from the U.S. and various Central American countries. Though now separated, they both had the desire to help some children that would have no future otherwise. He took pride in every one of them and their children and the part he was able to play in each life.

His wish was, “May they someday remember the old man fondly.”

Ray is preceded in death by his parents Ray L. Merritt, Sr. and Georgia Mae Merritt.

Visitation with the family will be Sunday September 13th, 2020 from noon-4:00 pm at Nelsen Funeral Home. A Celebration of Life Memorial will be held at a later date in Knoxville, Tennessee. In lieu of flowers please send donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Due to Covid restrictions visitors including children will be required to wear a mask. Visitors will be limited to 50 people per viewing room.


  • Wife
    Helga B. Merritt

    Brenda Merritt Stokes (Bob)

    Lloyd A. Merritt (Mary)
    Rosalinda L. Matejovetz (Jon)
    Justin L. Merritt
    Caroline L. Fitzsimmons (Dana)
    Sonja K. Park (Joe)
    Stephen C. Merritt (Brittany)

    Zachery & Jasmine (Rosalinda)
    Abigail & Kaleb (Justin)
    Dylan & Drew (Caroline)
    Raymond, Joey & Jacob ( Sonja)
    Georgia & Ellison (Stephen)

    Jaxon (Jasmine)

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  • Visitation

    Sunday, September 13, 2020


Ray Lafayette Merritt Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Jane Morton

September 15, 2020

Ray was in my class of 1961 at East High in Knoxville. He was well liked, friendly, and very intelligent. I always enjoyed talking to him at our reunions because he was so interesting and witty! He will be missed!!

Ginger Kellum

September 13, 2020

Ray Merritt was a Dear Sweet FRIEND OF mine! He was ALWAYS THERE if I needed to Talk TO Him! Our Friendship was one OF Love and RESPECT! Some PEOPLE are Loaned To us By Our HEAVENLY FATHER and We NEVER know When GOD will Call Them Home! Miss YOU Buddy!Fly High WITH JESUS! YOU FINALLY made it HOME!

Terrie Baumgardner

September 13, 2020

My family had the pleasure of being neighbors of Ray for the last 5 years. I’ve never felt so welcomed by a neighbor. Right away I just knew he was such a kind man. He told us about his wonderful children and his career. We got to work on our little flower beds together. We always look out for one another. The amount of sadness in our hearts is great because he will be missed but I saw how much family was there for him and I know that meant the world to him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and to Ray- We will miss you ❤️ Terrie and Chris Stevey

Glenda Ellema

September 11, 2020

Thank you for your service to this country Sir. You led an exceptional life and had such a big heart to love and care for all your children the way you did.

To the family, we are so sorry for your loss and are keeping you all in prayer that God may see you all through these tough times. God bless you.

The Ellema Family

Regenia Clifton

September 10, 2020

Love my cousin very much. He always had a story to tell and was active in so many different areas. He very much enjoyed life and his wonderful children.

So sorry for your loss. It's hard to understand the loss right now but the 'good memories' will one day be the gift of your grieving. God bless all of you and know that you are loved! Love, your second cousin, Regenia.

Georgia Boyko

September 10, 2020

What an incredible life he lead. I pray that the love he shared with friends and family keeps a warm memory in your hearts for the days to come. With warmest sympathy and love for your family, Georgia

Brenda Ogle

September 10, 2020

Sonja and family, although I never met him, Sonja and Joey when you talked about him I could see love and pride in your eyes and the love y'all had for him was incredible
He sounds like a very loving and a very impressive man
God Bless You All
My sincere condolence to the family

Ronald Hintze

September 9, 2020

Ray and I flew many Learjet missions togather at Flight International. Known for his wry humor, Ray was one of a kind! My sincere condolences to his family.
Ron Hintze


Learn more about the Merritt name